Working at Home -Why Product Testing Might Suit Your Lifestyle

The world of work is changing all the time, but one thing that seems to be becoming ever more popular is the need for people to work with more flexibility - in terms of location, employer and how their working hours are spread across a week. Working from home is an increasingly popular option, offering people the chance to undertake forms of employment that fit in making money around their childcare needs and even, perhaps, around other part-time jobs.

Working at home

Product testing is one such form of employment and something that many people may have heard of, but less people will have investigated and actually discovered what’s truly involved. As long as you research it properly, testing products sent to you by companies who are keen to receive honest, unbiased feedback could be the ideal way to earn a reasonable supplement your current income.

Product testing is ideally suited to those who are able to comment - mostly in written form - clearly and articulately about the item in question and its advantages and disadvantages to the consumer. Testing the products themselves should be something that is easily built into your normal daily life and indeed, this will be one of the primary aims of the companies who provide the products.

The companies will need you to be objective and unemotional when reporting back to them. Whilst they will understand that each person’s experience of their product will be coloured by their own individual circumstances, they simply need you to give them useful qualitative data regarding the item you’ve been testing, not a lengthy diary of all your personal experiences during the product trial.

What’s Involved With Product Testing?

Once you have registered with the product testing companies (more details on which can be found later in this article), you will be asked to complete detailed questionnaires regarding many aspects of the life you and your family need. You will not be expected to provide any confidential information and any company that asks for this sort of information should be avoided. The details that you provide will help ensure that you are matched with products that you would be likely to use and enjoy under normal circumstances. The companies that provide the products want an honest critique above all else, but clearly it helps if your response is positive! Therefore, it’s in the best interests of both parties to be open and honest about the things that would suit your lifestyle. This may mean that you are not sent as many products as you might have imagined, but it does mean that the ones you are sent will be items that you are likely to appreciate more.

Once you are ready to start testing products, the companies will send the items to you along with instructions on how the product should be used and how and when they will be expecting your response to be sent to them. In some instances, you might be required to stop using certain other household products in order that you are able to give a more accurate response. For example, if you were testing a new oven cleaning liquid, you would probably be asked to stop using all other cleaning aids for the duration of the product trial. You will be told how long to use the product for and under what conditions. These conditions might seem more stringent than would usually be the case for the use of general household products (most of us tend to use these sorts of products without ever ‘reading the instructions’ as we are so familiar with them) but again, this is the best way to obtain the most effective results.

The product testing company will also send you details of how they would like you to record your responses to their products. Sometimes, you might need to make a formal record every time you use the product. At other times, it might be at the end of each day or week, or perhaps just at the very end of the product trial. Whatever type of assessment you are asked to make, it will be important that you make it as clear and concise as possible in order to maximise its usefulness.

Occasionally you may be asked for a handwritten response to the products, but this is becoming rarer as an increasing number of companies are posting questionnaires online. You might be asked to install some software on your PC or laptop in order for you to be able to run certain programs that will record your responses quickly and easily, so make sure that you have up-to-date anti-virus software as well as this will help avoid any untoward activity on your home computer.

See this article for more detail about the different forms of testing and recording you might be asked to perform.

A lot of the time, and certainly in the early stages of your product testing career, you will be testing consumable products, so clearly you will not have to return it once the trial is complete. Should you be asked to test non-consumable products such as clothing or electronics, it will be made clear at the start of the trial whether or not you will be keeping the product at the end. Some product tests are paid (either in vouchers or via a payment website such as PayPal) and others are not, so make sure to check this at the outset.

Am I Qualified to Become a Product Tester?

The main qualifications required of freelance, work-from-home product testers are:
  • That you are a fit and healthy adult of sound mind
  • That you are able to follow instructions easily
  • That you are able to write clearly and concisely
  • That you are comfortable using a computer and the internet

However, it will also help if:
  • You have a general awareness of brands and products
  • You use a wide range of brands and products in your daily lif

Often, you will not be allowed to work with certain product testing companies or test certain products if you or anyone else in your household works for any sort of marketing company. Similarly, you may be refused if you or anyone in your household has an affiliation with any of the products or services being tested. This is so that the companies can be sure that your opinions of the products are unbiased and also that you are not going to release sensitive information about their products to their competitors.

If you are someone who likes to talk about the things that they do and often has strong opinions in discussions then that will be of great benefit. Whilst a lukewarm response to a product might seem as though it is preferable to a negative one, it is actually a forceful response - either positive or negative - that is most useful when it comes to shaping and adapting products to customers’ needs. If you are able to be honest and give constructive criticism then your work will be appreciated far more than someone who just ticks the equivalent of the ‘I suppose it was OK’ box every time!

People who have been testing products for a while report that although they like the fringe benefits of receiving products for free and sometimes even being paid for their opinions on those products, the most rewarding aspect of this job is the feeling of empowerment. Many of us might complain about ‘big businesses’ and the fact that they never seem to listen to the ‘voice of the people’. Product testing allows you to actually become the ‘voice of the people’ and to add your opinions into a proactive conversation about how to change, improve and adapt products in the future.

Companies are now well aware of the fact that, thanks to the internet and especially to the radical increase in the use of social media sites and discussion forums, consumers are more powerful than ever in determining whether a product succeeds or fails in the marketplace. Big and small brands are therefore willing to invest time and money in gaining as much insight into the public’s opinions of their products prior to general release so that they can iron out as many of the glitches as possible.

Therefore, simply by being a consumer, you are qualified to comment on the products you and your family use. Your opinion is as valid as anyone else’s and if you can share those opinions constructively you will be of great value as a product tester.

What Sort of Products Will I Be Testing?

Products for testing

As you’re starting out, the chances are that the items you’ll be sent for testing will be relatively low value, consumable goods. If you’ve taken the time to fill out your registration questionnaires with each company carefully then these products should be items that you would normally consider purchasing anyway, or should certainly be related to such products. Therefore, fitting them into your daily life shouldn’t prove too be too difficult. Make sure you take note of whether you’re supposed to use them instead of your usual products or alongside of your usual products (you may be asked to make comparisons between brands of washing up liquid, for example, or do some comparitive taste testings of certain food products).

Once you’ve proven your worth to the product testing companies, you may be sent products of a higher value (which you may also be able to keep) such as expensive cosmetics, clothes, shoes and electronics, but be aware that this is the exception rather than the norm for a lot of product testers.

You may also be asked to test non-tangible products or services, such as websites. As previously mentioned, the internet is a part of our lives now and companies need to ensure that their web presence is useful to and appropriate for their consumers. Prior to the launch or update of a company’s website, you might be asked to visit it at different times, via different devices and to complete various tasks, all with the aim of them ultimately providing as user-friendly a service as possible.

How Should I go About Applying for Product Testing Jobs?

The first step should be to create a resume for yourself, detailing what relevant transferable skills and experience you may have that would be useful when it comes to not only testing the products, but almost more importantly, recording your thoughts. Any previous writing experience would help, as well as knowledge of data entry techniques. Be careful about any previous marketing experience you may have, as companies will be rightfully dubious about the motivations of marketing professionals (who they may assume are trying to obtain insider knowledge about competing products). Product testing companies are very unlikely to take on individuals who are are currently working in a marketing role, but if it’s clear that although you have worked in this capacity in the past you no longer have any association with marketing, you might find that your knowledge of the industry is valuable.

Ultimately, however, product testing companies are looking for ‘normal’, everyday people to test their normal, everyday products. This leads on to the next point, which is that for many companies you may not be applying for a job in the usual way. In other words, you will not necessarily be submitting a normal resume and attending an interview in order to commence working with the company. You are more likely to be filling out a registration form on a website, giving detailed (though obviously anonymous and confidential) information about your lifestyle and the sort of products that you currently use. The more care you take to fill this form in accurately, the better the products the company will match to your profile and send you to test.

As a starting point, you could read these guidelines on how to complete a resume to enable you to apply for product testing jobs.

Having a completed resume saved on your computer will give you a basis for all your applications and it can be easily amended and expanded as your experience grows. Bear in mind, though, that you should just use it as a foundation upon which to build each application or registration form, as each one should be tailored to that specific company’s needs and should not just be a ‘copy and paste’ exercise.

What Could I Earn as a Product Tester?

Initially, it is unlikely you will earn any cold, hard cash from being a product tester. While you’re still new to the job, your reward is likely to be simply receiving free products and getting to use and and keep them. Many product testers say they feel rewarded by the fact that big companies are listening to their opinions, but obviously this has no specific monetary value.

However, once you are a more established product tester and have built up a trustworthy reputation with the companies for whom you’ve worked, you may start to find that you are sent products of a higher value which will be worth considerably more to you. Sometimes you may also be paid to review such high-end products, though this is not as common as people might believe and certainly not as common as some of the less reputable firms suggest.

Some product testing reviews might result in payment in the form of vouchers for well known high street or online stores, such as Amazon. If companies are offering ‘cash’ payments, this is likely to be delivered through an online payment site such as PayPal, rather than through you invoicing the company directly or becoming a salaried member of staff.

Once you are up and running, you could earn anything from £5 to £75 per month over and above the receipt of the products you are testing.

Becoming a product tester is essentially becoming a freelancer and therefore encompasses all the necessary factors related to being self-employed. It is unlikely that you will generate enough revenue to pay tax on your earnings, especially if this is your sole source of income, but it’s worth making sure just in case. You can use this link to HM Revenue and Customs to find out more about registering as self-employed and making your own tax and National Insurance contributions.

Are There Any Pitfalls I Should Look Out For?

The easiest mistake to make when searching for product testing companies and applying for jobs is to fall for the scams created by some of the less reputable organisations. Here are some of the obviously false claims made by such firms:

  • That you will be paid in cash for every review you complete, right from the outset (even if this were true, you would have to complete a certain number of reviews for them before they would pay out)
  • That you will be sent a huge number and variety of products each week
  • That you will be regularly be sent high value goods to review, all of which you will be able to keep

Some of these claims may have some truth in them, for some people, once they have been working as a product tester for a while, but just stop for a minute to think about the likelihood that Apple is going to send you their latest iPad for testing despite knowing nothing about you or your reliability. If it sounds too good to be true, the chances are that that’s the case.

Another important point is to avoid any company that asks you to pay them any amount of money, no matter how small, to register with them. ALL of the reputable product testing companies allow you to join their databases for free and will not expect any monthly fee (or similar outgoing) from you.

Finally, be wary of companies who pummel you for detail after detail about the lifestyles you and your family lead while still being vague about when any product testing opportunities will actually arise. Some companies use these registration forms to collect data for their marketing campaigns without any intention of giving anyone products to test. If in doubt, visit trustworthy and well-moderated forums, such as those at MSE to ask for the advice and experiences of others who have already begun working as a product tester.

Are There Any Reputable Product Testing Companies That You Would Recommend?

Toluna - join up and then select products that you would like to test. Testers will be selected at random for each product and you will need to leave your feedback once the trial period is complete, after which you will get to keep the product.

Opinion Outpost - a website where you can complete surveys to share your opinions and earn points that can later be converted into money. Participation in these surveys will also enter you into a prize draw to win a much larger amount.

BzzAgent - a product testing website that has harnessed the power of social media. You can get involved in ‘campaigns’ and share your thoughts on the product or service in question. Once you’ve shown that you’re an active member of their community, you’re more likely to get sent more products to review. You give something and you get something back!